Second-Rate Ideas

It is no small effort to change key suppliers, cost reduce a product line, or redesign the packaging. This is the bread-and-butter of our work. Day-in and day-out products are “tweaked”, and they must be. In some companies the NPD project is a customer order (some invention required). And the engineering is in our wheel house…we know how to do it… but that does not make it easy. Think about it, as a customer wouldn’t you rather work with a supplier that delivers cost-effective excellence day-in and day-out, year-after-year over a supplier that is showing you new ideas that are cool but will they work? Will your customers be willing to experiment? As a stock holder there is good evidence that consistent profitability comes from companies that deliver a known commodity to a known market with excellence. Stretch innovation might be a problem and a distraction, that is, until it’s not…

The thing is, the skills to deliver years of innovation basics are generally the same ones necessary to do stretch innovation. I would rather work with a team of really good implementers who can make an idea happen every time than a super creative group that can’t land their ideas.

We really want both, don’t we?  Implementers; keeping your nose to the grindstone is a good idea, but occasionally we all need to stand up and stretch our mind …. walk around, pay attention to more than the next customer order and the order we lost to the competition over 30 cents per case. And creative thinkers; there is no substitute for deep technical and market knowledge. Working together, you can create a powerhouse.

In discovery who do you want on the team?

  • Implementation experience and responsibility, with diverse experience. Market and technology and operations, of course, but what about finance, legal and regulatory?
  • Decision makers who own at least the first cycle of budget approvals.
  • Value chain and customer representation. The actual customer is best if you can swing it.
  • Diversity; don’t shy away from that new person, the internal wild card, the retiree, the ad agency person or even that NPD pro from a non-competing company across town.

Success rates are surprisingly close for radical and incremental innovation projects. The problem with the “second rate” idea is not the idea itself… it is that it needs to be managed by a team with the vision and experience to help it grow and be molded into something that matters to your customer and your company. The problem with the team is that the diversity half is missing. For innovation managers this means that we must always look to expand our circle of innovation participation.

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